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6.0 earthquake rattles Bay Area

Original post made on Aug 24, 2014

A 6.0 earthquake shook Bay Area residents in their beds this morning.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, August 24, 2014, 4:07 AM

Comments (26)

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Posted by Sara
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2014 at 4:47 am

I am all the way in Israel wondering how my family in Palo Alto
Is anyone awake yet???

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Posted by Dale
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2014 at 6:31 am

Sara, I'm quite sure your family in Palo Alto is fine. I live in Benicia, about 12 miles southeast from the epicenter and everyone here is fine. It was quite a wild ride, though!

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Posted by Awake
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2014 at 6:32 am

Hi Sara,

We're right next door to Palo Alto. I doubt there would be any damage or injuries in our area. The epicenter was farther to the North. We felt it, but it was just a light roller. It woke some people up, others slept right through it. Hope this helps calm some of the worries.

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Posted by sharon
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2014 at 6:42 am

I'm in vallejo ' this is one of the worst I've been in. I remember the earthquake 25years ago I also remember
As a teenager healsburg ca. Earthquake . there are 4genarations in this house I thank God we re all safe.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2014 at 6:59 am

I woke up because I thought someone was at the door (I heard the screen door rattle). My husband only woke up because I did. Then, after a minute our two, we went back to sleep.

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Posted by Stephanie
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 24, 2014 at 7:40 am

We live in Palo Alto, everyone is safe, no damage around-

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Posted by Asleep-In-PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

Woke to what I thought waa a dream where I was rolling gently. Realized it was an earthquake, and not much of one here in PA--so went back to sleep.

Seems our neighbors in Napa had it a lot worse than we did.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

Radio is reporting 3 serious injuries in Napa.

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Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2014 at 9:35 am

That's exactly what I thought. I woke up and thought raccoons were trying to get through the cat door. I woke up my husband and asked him what it was and he said what? And went back to sleep. I listened for awhile in case the raccoons were trying to get in. Then saw the news this morning.

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Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2014 at 10:57 am

For anyone reading this out of the area, I completely slept through it, and from what I can tell, nothing in my house moved even a fraction of an inch. I think if I were awake I might have felt something tiny, but it didn't disturb me sleeping at all!

This is a VERY good reminder to check those earthquake supplies and preparation!

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Posted by Lee Thé
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 24, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Lee Thé is a registered user.

This should be a wake-up call for Palo Altans. If YOUR residence was built before the early 1990s, it is most likely not up to current seismic standards.

In particular, older homes, condos, and apartment buildings are probably not fastened to their foundations--a number of older Napa-area homes just "walked" off their foundations.

Older homes, condos, and apartment buildings lack proper bracing of their cripple walls. That's the space between the ground and the bottom of the house proper.

Brick/masonry fireplaces tend to collapse--one of the critical injuries in Napa came from this.

But most critically, buildings built over garages that are open at one end (and garage doors at the open end don't change that). These are called "soft story" buildings, and many condo and apartment buildings in Palo Alto are designed this way.

Such buildings collapse in strong earthquakes--as happened in Santa Cruz and Watsonville during the Loma Prieta earthquake, and even in San Francisco where the soft story buildings were built on bayside fill.

Such buildings can get seismic retrofits--we now know how to make them much safer, usually at a cost of roughly $10,000 per unit.

When retrofits aren't done and the earthquakes inevitably come, these vulnerable buildings divert government resources that would otherwise be available to rescue/help everyone else.So even if your residence isn't threatened, you're involved.

The more progressive cities in the Bay Area are starting to require seismic retrofits of such buildings, because they realize that many won't do it unless required, and lives are at stake.

Plus, Palo Alto is at fault for homeowners associations being unable to pass the special assessments required for the retrofits.

This is because the Palo Alto city government requires all "planned communities" of 7 units or more to donate 15% of the units to the Below Market Rate (BMR) program, in order to supply nice homes here to poorer people. However, the BMR program offers nothing to such homeowners to defray the cost of special assessments. So they vote against them. Not only do they vote against them, they campaign vigorously against them.

And since special assessments require a 2/3 vote of the homeowners, the BMR factions are enough to prevent passage of special assessments in most cases.

This is Palo Alto's fault. It needs to follow the lead of other Bay Area cities in requiring seismic retrofits for housing built before 1991--AND to take responsibility for the inability of the BMR owners to pay for these special assessments.

For example, the city could loan the BMR owners the money now, then place a lien against the units, so the city gets the money back when the unit is sold. The odds of Palo Alto residences increasing in value are close to 100%, after all.

No one wants to deal with earthquakes. They're rare and unpredictable. We're rather deal with immediate issues. Many Palo Altans have never experienced a strong earthquake. But the USGS gives an 80% chance of us having a strong earthquake nearby within 30 years. Starting right now.

So look at the images of Napa...and urge our City Council to mandate seismic retrofits NOW.

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Posted by scary
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

if you were sitting o n the ranch lookin at the stars ,it was very side to side ,very long lasting like it might not end! in a house you wouldnt realize it. it vas very ball bearing like almost circular up and dow very briefly ,luckily! it was if the earth is really 'riding on jell-o'. no kidding!

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Posted by Lindsey Watson
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:44 pm

This is a clear reminder that there always is the BIG ONE just around the corner and we don't know when or where it is going to strike!

We have to be prepared and make sure to keep an earthquake kit in our home, car, and office. Water, Food, Good Shoes, and several hundred dollar cash is essential to get through a hard time. I put together my own kit years ago that I update once a year, throwing out expired items. If you don't want to build a kit yourself, I recommend checking out this company Preppi. They make awesome earthquake kits that look as good as they are functional with everything you need for 72-hours after a quake! Web Link

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Posted by Volunteer for Emergency Prep
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I am a volunteer for Palo Alto's Emergency Preparation and am a Block Coordinator. It is a great volunteer activity because I get to know my neighbors better, know what to do during an emergency, and build a better community.

It is easy to do and rewarding. For more information click on the City of Palo Alto's Emergency Preparedness site and learn about how to prepare your family or become a Block Coordinator.

Web Link

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Posted by Marianne Mueller
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I woke up five minutes before, coincidentally, and counted about 10-12 seconds shaking, mild shaking/rolling, I felt I could hear rumbling but I may have imagined that. Mirror propped up on wall rattled back and forth, and some pictures swayed, no damage. Cats slept soundly as did housemate. People can send in their experiences to USGS, which compiles this data: Web Link

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Some 21,000 responses to USGS on this quake so far. Excellent example of crowd-sourcing.

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Posted by Safety 1st
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm

"In particular, older homes, condos, and apartment buildings are probably not fastened to their foundations--a number of older Napa-area homes just "walked" off their foundations."

Another related article by Sue Dremann at the Weekly:
Web Link
Green Acres II residents improved neighborhood safety with a group retrofit

We're really happy we did this. We saved money, and doing the retrofit as a group gave us the incentive to just get it done. We were really happy with the contractor we used, they specialize in these kinds of upgrades and other foundation work.

Even where homes are fastened to the foundations, a number don't have enough protection from shear forces, and it's easy to bring to standard.

Right now, I'm wondering about group automatic seismic shutoff valves...

Also, from the above story:
"a 13-year-old boy who was airlifted to a children's hospital outside of Napa after pieces of the fireplace at his home collapsed onto him"

Seems an eery repeat of what happened - was it Santa Cruz? - when a chimney collapsed on a 3-year-old.

We have a few historic homes in the area which don't make sense architecturally without a big hearth and chimney. But for everyone else, the vast majority of us - how much, really, do you use that wood burning fire place? In my experience, most people keep the fireplace thinking their home will take some kind of price hit if they don't have one. I want to reassure you that we have now lived in homes for the last 25 years in which we removed the fireplace and put in a modern entertainment center in the space, and the homes neither lost interest nor value because of it, and we got much better use of the living space. There was always a place where people could have added a less bulky gas-burning fireplace with a modern hearth if they wanted, but not having a brick chimney was never a problem to the sale or sale price. Fireplaces are now akin to pools: if you want one, you can always put one in, but not having one is not a drawback to a decent home's value.

More importantly, an unreinforced brick chimney is one of the most likely parts (perhaps the most likely part) of a single-story wood-frame home to sustain damage and to damage the occupants in an earthquake. Is there anything your brick chimney does for you that is worth what that 13-year-old boy are going through right now? Prayers to him and his family...

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 25, 2014 at 12:35 am

Odd that most earthquake advice recommends if you smell natural gas to turn off your house gas at the outside meter.... but in Palo Alto most gas meter valves require a special tool and training to turn gas off. So, we must turn gas off at each appliance or evacuate, wait for aftershocks and fire, and get in line on 911 for the utility department to come out with their special tools. Bizarre.

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Posted by jiggy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2014 at 12:55 am

I will never forget about the earthquake that rocked the east bay. I felt it, and it felt like the ocean waves rolling beneath the floor. Web Link

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Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 25, 2014 at 6:27 am

@ neighbor: the gas shutoff tool is a very simple wrench that slips over the rectangular valve handle. Sold at all hardware stores, and should be provided by all landlords. Or use a crescent wrench. Slip wrench onto handle, and rotate 90 degrees, so the length of the valve handle is perpendicular to the gas pipe. Done. Video: Web Link

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2014 at 9:22 am

Everything is simple, except when it isn't. If that gas valve hasn't been exercised in decades of weather exposure, good chance it will be very sticky. Even if the valve is brand new, it could be surprisingly stiff. Mine is a standard 3/4-inch valve and takes plenty of torque on a 10-inch crescent to make it budge. A little aluminum plate on the regulator indicates my meter (Schlumberger) was replaced in August 2012, and the valve appears to be the same age, no corrosion (but some scary spiderwebs).

Our utility department highly discourages any practical experience -- Web Link

"Meters matter! Keep them accessible but please don't turn them off yourself! Except when you smell gas during an emergency (like an earthquake), never try to turn off your own gas, water or electric meters. AND NEVER TURN METERS BACK ON UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. If you have a concern, call the City Utilities at (650) 329-2579, 24 hours a day. Meters should only be handled by trained utility staff. (Utility meters and valves are City property and tampering with them is both dangerous and against the law.)"

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 9:59 am

The gas company will come out to show you how to use the turn-off tool (which is available everywhere and very cheap).

I tie mine to the outside meter, so it's right where I'll need it to be. I'm disabled but can turn the gas off easily.

In an earthquake I won't have to bother the gas company, fire department, or anyone else who must respond to higher priority needs.

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Posted by northen
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

Yes, you can turn the gas valve off, that is if your house hasn't exploded in flames before you can turn it off. Automatic gas turn off valves are a good idea and I wonder why the city doesn't required them in new construction or remodel. Other cities do

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

I wonder what those newly constructed 4-story towers along El Camino canyon in Mtn View, Los Altos and Palo Alto will look like when a large earthquake hits this area. I'm betting it will be shut down for days.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Like everyone else in the area, I have been watching the media give their saturation reports on this quake. It is definitely a wake up call for us living here.

At this stage, instead of hearing more and more reports on the damage, I would like to know a little more on what worked.

They said the early warning system in Berkeley gave a 10 second warning. Did that actually do any good? Did firehouses get a chance to open their automatic doors, etc.? Even with a 30 second warning, particularly in the middle of the night, can that make a difference?

Did neighborhood support groups kick in? I have heard a couple of reports of neighbors helping neighbors, but did the neighborhood organized groups manage to help in a way that official emergency responders were unable to do so?

Did people have their own emergency supplies or were they fully dependent on Red Cross type help? Did local return 911 calls give out any useful information? Did cell towers/phone lines/internet services manage to handle all the requirements?

Was there any need for rolls of cash, prevention of looting, hot food distribution and shelters for displaced people?

These are the things that can show us what works and what is a waste of time, the real lessons for preparedness.

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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

I hope we are all thinking about this.

I personally have been impacted by many earth quakes since I lived in California since 1977. My ex-wife's house was damaged during North Ridge earthquake in 1994 badly.

Last night I have taken all the heavy wall hangings (pictures) so they do not fall on me. I moved plates, cups and other that are heavy to bottom shelves.

I have an earthquake kit that has first aid material; I have some water, Peanut Butter; etc.,

I hope the city has a department that can guide us on how to be prepared.

Dear citizens of Palo Alto we love!

I am not an earth quake triage expert:

We are at our own homes as we are the first that are impacted in our homes with our loved once.

- As we know these quakes occur different times; many at night and early morning or for that matter any time of the day.

- Please talk to your Earth Quake expert and be prepared.
- There is no need for panic. But, we need to be vigilant.
- We need to protect our children and elderly;

- Please keep in mind what we need to do if we do not have electric power even for few hours;- do we have batteries?
- Please keep an eye on everything as we know we can start early to triage.


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